Quarter-finals Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: What Keshi should do know



By Henry Ekpe


Thank God the Super Eagles have qualified for the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations taking place in South Africa. However, if I am to say, I would point out that the team lacks colour, no plans and pattern of play. Is the Stephen Keshi led Super Eagles playing sexy football? Is it Jogobonito? Total football? Kick-and-follow? Fluid soccer or robust football? You cannot quantify the team.


However, having gone this far, Keshi must change his strategy if the Super Eagles would live up to a scratch against the rampaging Elephants of Ivory Coast on Sunday.


Mother luck has led us through till now, but the competition has reached the stage where a winner must emerge in every match, so count not on luck anymore.


It was unfortunate that teams like Burkinafaso, and Ethiopia troubled the Eagles to the extent that it took penalties to scale through.


In every department of the Eagles, I could not see any flair, especially in the defence where the team find it difficult to defend well whenever it scores first. We saw it against Burkinafaso and Zambia where both teams equalized after the Eagles were leading. It also nearly happened against Ethiopia if not for Vincent Enyema’s spectacular save in the dieing minutes of the game after Victor Moses had converted his penalty.


Therefore, for the Super Eagles to move further in the competition, I suggest Keshi should change plan. Although the buck stops on his table, the whole Nigeria will suffer the humiliation should the Elephants take Super Eagles to the cleaners on Sunday.


Keshi should regig his team selection. It was a wonder that a player like Sunday Mba was on the bench since the competition started. The guy, though a home based, was fantastic against the Ethiopians. And there may be more of such players on the bench.


Keshi is not deploying Ambrose Efe effectively, and this has caused error from the player. Efe plays as a defensive midfielder in his Scottish team, Celtic, and had always been marvelous, in that position for Celtic to the extent that he neutralized mercurial Leo Messi during the EUFA Championship league match against Barcelona FC. Efe with his height and penchant to move forward will be in the mould of Sunday Oliseh in that position.


Omeruo should operate from the right full back position, with Echiejile manning the left flank, while Yobo should pair Obobona in the central defence.


Mikel Obi should be asked to be faster, as he seems too lazy for the pacy, agile and physical African footballers. Emenike should also be more serious and charge at goalkeepers, even when they are with the ball, so as to hasten the game.


In all, Keshi should tell his Boys to be business-like while in the field. We want to see the type of zeal in the Eagles of yore when we had Rashidi Yekini and Emmanuel Amunike who don’t joke while in the field. Then Eagles meant business, right from the first blast of the whistle.


These present Eagles are too casual for my liking. They play all their matches as if they are in friendly matches.


However, I think with Elephants’ exploits in Africa, and the caliber of players in the team, Super Eagles are seen as the under-dogs as they clash on Sunday. This has removed pressure from the team. So, they should remain calm and destroy the Elephants. I see the Super Eagles surprising the doubting Thomases on Sunday. Wishing our dear team a successful outing.